The best games writing from around the web.
The Weekly is your round-up of all the best in games writing and related spaces. Reviews, news, features, and more await you each week as the curators of Good Games Writing scour the Internet for the best of the best. Some themes are for older audiences.
With the return-to-school impacting most of our team you’ll notice Liftoff! is largely quiet and the Weekly’s a little bit shorter. As we wrap our heads around keeping our students (and ourselves!) safe in the midst of a pandemic our regular schedule will return. In the meantime, enjoy new games, whether you Avenge or kick flip, it’s a good week for gaming, and if you needed something to look forward to, the Mario news for the week is the boost of positivity we all needed.
Two usual suspects for you this week. At Unwinnable, David Shimomura tackles Ghost of Tsushima and its glossy patina, tackling the confounding ways the samurai game dresses up its systems, building to a deafening crescendo that critiques its broader messaging.
“Ghost of Tsushima is a love-sick letter to the tone and feel of pop culture samurai media. It is cloyingly sentimental for a time which never existed and desperate to be loved in the same way that its creators loved the samurai cinema that they consumed in yesteryears. It is overindulgent.”
So much of our social media timelines are filled with Ghost of Tsushima right now: The screenshots from it are captivating–perhaps confirming Shimomura’s point above–but it’s also something of a broader trend. Just how many Animal Crossing: New Horizons screens did we see in the height of the pandemic’s isolation? Loads.
At Polygon, Patricia Hernandez explains not just the postcard-like nature of those screens, but how new tools (“presets”) have elevated the aesthetic and forged new communities.
Here, much of the community makes use of “presets” — that is, a set of filters that Lightroom users can use to craft a specific, tailored look. Many of the viral images you see from New Horizons have been tweaked by players to have hues and tones that are actually impossible to achieve in-game, and that’s usually accomplished with said presets. A fairycore island might, for example, opt for pastel tints in the pink to purple range to help achieve an ethereal ambiance.
Reviews & Criticism
A trio of pieces for your consideration this weekend. Sticking with Polygon, this review of Post Void stuck with us because the review’s brisk pace and relative brevity captures the very essence of the game as described. It’s equal parts restrained (any individual paragraph could probably be doubled in length) and frantic (“oops”). If this is a place to look at writing about games then this is a review worth its weight in setting expectations and toppling them.
Over on Vice, Spiritfarer rightfully earns praise for its approach to connection (physical connection through to letting go) but its the contextualization of the genre through Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley that we took the most value from.
The sense of easy accomplishment is central to Ana Hein’s time spent playing Viscera Cleanup Detail. The sense of routine described reminds us of grinding in our favourite games–as much as we complain about that grind we always dutifully return.
Hawks & Heroes
With a couple of major releases this week the #content around both superheroes and Tony Hawk has been on point. Mark Serrels’ reporting on the Avengers game THQ never finished making is our sit down, get cozy, and grab a cuppa read of the week. It’s a story that involves Captain America with a gun, a designer wielding a knife, personal triumph and, yes, failure.
Here on Liftoff! Daniel Wood argues we’re in the golden age of superhero games. Surely.
On the Tony Hawk front, a pair of pieces resonated with us instantly: Michael Higham’s review notes the game “captur[es] nostalgia by giving us what the old games did, but also instilling that same feeling of admiration with skating’s new cultural era” while Caty McCarthy discusses the importance of being able to see herself in the game–and the same import given for others to see themselves–ahead of her full review.
We round out the week with different takes on reported pieces.
While the game definitely avoids the stereotypical pitfalls of trans representation, it does present a warts and all depiction of life as a trans person, including the microaggressions and awkward moments. Adams especially felt like this was crucial for the game to include, as he said “if they had ignored that part of being trans, it would have been a missed opportunity.
Over on Paste, Funké Joseph blends thoughtful criticism with recent relevance to lightly report on the rise of Among Us as a Twitch mainstay, crediting a “perfect storm” of “quarantine isolation” with “[q]uick rounds full of deception and mystery”. Sign us up.
Riot’s decision to partner with a despotic government and subsequent reversal is put under the microscope at The Washington Post. It’s not just that deal but the challenges esports are facing while attempting to legitimize themselves while being prime targets for nefarious use by governments…including that of the United States.
Finally, we appreciated this piece on TikTok’s algorithms, and how lingering on one type of triggering content for more than a moment means you’re likely to receive much more of it from the platform. No thanks!
Clark, Nicole. “‘Spiritfarer,’ A Game of Hugging and Letting Go, Is Perfect For Right Now” (Vice: September 4, 2020) <https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/n7wywg/spiritfarer-a-game-of-hugging-and-letting-go-is-perfect-for-right-now>.
Hein, Ana. “From Office Cubicle to Janitorial Service” (Video Dame: August 27, 2020) <https://videoda.me/from-office-cubicle-to-the-janitorial-service-14778d671ef2>.
Henley, Stacey. “Creating Tyler Ronan: How DONTNOD created the first major transgender protagonist in video games” (Gayming Magazine: August 31, 2020) <https://gaymingmag.com/2020/08/creating-tyler-ronan-how-dontnod-created-the-first-major-transgender-protagonist-in-video-games/>.
Higham, Michael. “THPS 1 + 2 Remastered Is About A New, Diverse Era Of Skating, Too” (GameSpot: September 5, 2020) <https://www.gamespot.com/amp-articles/thps-1-2-remastered-is-about-a-new-diverse-era-of-/1100-6481848/>.
Hernandez, Patricia. “The business of selling Animal Crossing’s irresistible vibes” (Polygon: September 2, 2020) <https://www.polygon.com/2020/9/2/21418372/animal-crossing-new-horizons-acnh-preset-blathies-sleepyluck-galacrossing-nintendo-switch-lightroom>.
Joseph, Funké. “Why Among Us Became One of the Biggest Games on Twitch Two Years After Release” (Paste: September 4, 2020) <https://www.pastemagazine.com/games/among-us/among-us-game-twitch/>.
Marshall, Cass. “All the fun of Doom is injected into this tiny, wild shooter” (Polygon: September 2, 2020) <https://www.polygon.com/reviews/2020/9/2/21418644/post-void-review-pc-steam-ycjy-games>.
McCarthy, Caty. “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Has Done the Impossible. It’s Made Me Feel Included” (USGamer: September 4, 2020) <https://www.usgamer.net/articles/tony-hawks-pro-skater-1-and-2-inclusivity-opinion>.
Morgan, Ewan. “Ethics and economics: The conflicting values of the esports industry” (The Washington Post: September 3, 2020) <https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/esports/2020/09/03/riot-games-lec-saudi-arabia-human-rights/>.
Serrels, Mark. “The secret Avengers video game the world never got to play” (cnet: September 3, 2020) <https://www.cnet.com/features/the-secret-avengers-video-game-the-world-never-got-to-play/>.
Shimomura, David. “Specter of Aesthetic Play” (Unwinnable: September 2, 2020) <https://unwinnable.com/2020/09/02/specter-of-aesthetic-play/>.
Sung, Morgan. “It’s almost impossible to avoid triggering content on TikTok” (Mashable: August 31, 2020) <https://mashable.com/article/tiktok-algorithm-triggers/>.
Wood, Daniel. “This Is The Golden Age Of Superhero Gaming” (Liftoff!: September 2, 2020) <https://liftoffmag.com/this-is-the-golden-age-of-superhero-gaming/>.